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Police in Edison, Metuchen, Woodbridge get hairy for good causes

Police officers in Edison, Metuchen and Woodbridge have been going above and beyond the call of duty for good causes.

In Edison, the officers are getting hairy and hairier, going unshaven for a second straight month so they can now raise money and public awareness for Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.

Nearly 80 Edison officers threw away their razors for No Shave November, racking up more than $7,000 for cancer research and making their police department the nation’s third highest fundraiser.

The goal of No Shave November, according to its website, is to grow awareness by embracing one’s hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free.

Police Chief Thomas Bryan is allowing officers to participate in what the department is calling Double-Down December, raising funds for the Somerville-based N.J. Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders (NJCTS) at the request of Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Michael Schwarz.

“I am proud and grateful to my officers for the charitable spirit they exhibit during this season and throughout the year,” Bryan said, noting that Edison officers are also assisting with the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive and collecting holiday cards for military personnel serving abroad during the holidays.

Bryan, who has a family member with Tourette’s, chose it as the Double-Down December charitable cause.

“Researchers believe Tourette’s affects as many as 1 in 100 children and young adults,” Bryan said. “It is misunderstood and often goes unrecognized or misdiagnosed. From a law enforcement perspective, police officers should be aware they may encounter people who seem uncooperative or defiant when, in fact, they have Tourette syndrome, a disorder they cannot easily control.”

Schwarz said most of the officers and many people in the community have been touched by cancer.

“Tourette syndrome is not widely known or recognized,” he said. “This makes our effort to shine a spotlight on this debilitating disorder a very worthy cause.”

Come New Year’s Day, Bryan said his department’s clean-shaven grooming policies go back into effect, so officers’ beards and mustaches must disappear along with the holiday season’s twinkling lights and glittery tinsel.

In Metuchen, all 28 police officers contributed $50 for a total of $1,400 for No Shave November. Other individuals, dispatchers, and auxiliary police also contributed $275 for a total of $1,675, according to Police Officer Daniel Granato.

In Woodbridge, Police Director Robert Hubner said 95 percent of their officers participated in No Shave November.

“We raised a total of $5,700,” he said.

For the first time, Hubner said the department raised funds in both October and November. All the officers donated $15 to each cause. The women wore blue mustache pins to show support.

Some $2,500 was donated to Barbells for Boobs, a non-profit breast cancer organization dedicated to the early detection of breast cancer, with an emphasis on women under the age of 40 and men, and $2,600 was donated to a family in Colonia whose father/husband passed away from cancer.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.

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